2006 Prime Minister’s Prize for Excellence in Science Teaching in Secondary Schools

Anna full size1Anna Davis

Anna Davis began teaching at Casimir Catholic School in Marrickville in 1998. Since her arrival, results across Year 12 science courses have improved by 17% and students now achieve above the state average.

For Anna, it is the culmination of 16 years of teaching and turning her own passion for science into words, thereby helping students in some of Sydney’s more challenging schools achieve beyond their and their community’s expectations.

She has contributed to the education of countless students who have benefited from her innovative teaching plans, ideas and materials, and her inspirational leadership and mentoring of other teachers.

Anna Davis receives the 2006 Prime Minister’s Prize for Excellence in Science Teaching in Secondary Schools for her proven commitment to science teaching and professional development.

While Anna cites her own chemistry teacher as an inspiration, her early academic career was far from illustrious – quitting university the first time around after three years.  She found work as a laboratory technician at a school in Randwick, Sydney and, when given the opportunity to assist with classes, soon found a passion for the classroom and returned to university to qualify as a science teacher.

Since 1990, Anna has worked at three schools, each with high numbers of students from non-English speaking backgrounds and high levels of family unemployment.

“My whole aim is to give these kids a better future than they would have otherwise,” Anna explains. “It’s about challenging them to get the best results they can, to open up as many doors in the future as they can.”

Since joining Casimir Catholic College as science coordinator, Anna has placed great emphasis on staff development and a reflective approach to teaching.

“We look at what worked with each class, what didn’t and what we can learn.” says Anna.

A colleague describes her excitement about science and science teaching as “infectious” and that she has an ability to “switch her students on to science.”

“I make the children think,” Anna explains of her approach, adding that she rarely answers a question herself. “It’s about getting them to think about science and to verbalise their understanding.”

As a result, Casimir’s average grades across HSC science subjects have improved by 17%, and the numbers of students taking science subjects is steadily increasing.

Anna’s leadership goes far beyond her own school.  She is a leading light in the Science Teachers’ Association of New South Wales and contributed to the 2005 Early Careers Professional Learning Course, a programme providing training and mentoring to newly qualified science teachers in the state – the success of which means the programme is be repeated in 2006.

“We start by saying “don’t assume people know things, ensure they do,” Anna says of the programme.

Anna also routinely presents sessions and workshops for the Association throughout metropolitan and country New South Wales.  Her commitment to the Association is entirely voluntary and this year she begins her third year as an executive member.

“I believe in the kids and I want to do what I can to give the students the best,” says Anna.

“By sharing materials and what we are doing, we are ensuring people in other schools can do a better job. I don’t believe in reinventing the wheel.”

Autobiographical details

2002-          Curriculum coordinator, Casimir Catholic College, Marrickville

1998-2002  Science coordinator, Casimir Catholic College, Marrickville

1995-97      Trinity Catholic College, Auburn and Regents Park

1990-94      Benedict Senior College, Auburn

1987-89      Macquarie University, Sydney (BSc and DipEd)

1985-89      Boarding House Supervisor, Loreto College, Normanhurst

1985-86      Laboratory Technician, Marcellin College, Randwick

1982-84      University of Sydney (BSc, incomplete)

1964           Born Nowra, New South Wales

Career highlights

2004           Outstanding Professional Service Award, Professional Teachers Council of New South Wales – awarded for her coordination of the Earthworm Environmental Awards and of activities days at “Science is Fabulous Fun” at Australia’s Wonderland and Luna Park

2002           Distinguished Service Award, Science Teachers’ Association of New South Wales – awarded for her contribution to a series of state and national teachers’ conferences

2002           Catholic Education Office’s Executive Director’s Award for Excellence in Teaching

Contribution to science teaching

A leader in the Science Teachers’ Association of New South Wales (STANSW), on the council four times since joining the profession in 1990, including as Secretary (2004-05) and Vice President (2006-07).

Editor of the STANSW electronic newsletter (since 2005).

Presenter in the Early Careers Professional Learning Course, helping new teaching staff.

Presenter of AGQTP Professional Development courses for the Sydney Catholic Education Office.

Coordinated and member of the writing team for the trial HSC Chemistry paper (2002-04) for the Catholic Secondary Schools Association of New South Wales.

Represents the New South Wales Catholic Education Commission on the Board Curriculum Committee for Years 7 to 12 Science when it considers syllabus changes in the state.

Member of Council for the Australian Science Teachers’ Association (since 2006)